Restoring Lives of Forgotten People (RLFP) was a five-year project aimed at establishing an effective and integrated approach to the care and support of people living with leprosy and lymphatic filariasis (LF) and at overcoming prejudice in Bihar State, India.
The project began in 2015 with activities taking place initially across six Blocks – Pusa, Bithan, Samastipur, Warisnagar, Khanpur and Singhiya. During the course of the project, two additional blocks were included – Morwa and Kalyanpur.
The overall aim of RLFP was to improve the health outcomes and psychosocial and financial wellbeing of the people marginalised by leprosy and LF, to enable effective community mobilisation and create sustainable health responses to leprosy and LF.
We took an integrated and holistic approach tackling not just the health issues but looking at the prejudice and discrimination associated with leprosy and LF.
We implemented this by:
By the end of the project in 2020, we had reached 121,217 people affected by leprosy and LF with timely treatment, care and support.
Our integrated care approach has shown a substantial improvement in the health outcomes for people affected by leprosy or LF. Community initiatives have also helped to reduce discrimination or prejudice encountered by people affected.
By the end of the project, our work with RLFP demonstrated impact across health and wellbeing outcomes. Some highlights include:
However, people affected by LF still reported feeling discriminated against by the wider society with 33% of participants affected by leprosy and 30% affected by LF reported feeling excluded from society. One explanation may be that beneficiaries met with discrimination in the wider society while widening their social networks.
The RLFP project resulted in improved daily self-care practice and a decrease in ulcers, it halved the possibility of disability amongst beneficiaries, improved income, and decreased health care expenditure. It also increased social participation amongst the local and wider community. We still need to work on advocacy platforms to continue to reduce prejudice and discrimination in the wider society.